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The vicious cycle

Research has shown that there is a relationship between certain personality and temperament traits and a vulnerability to eating disorders. Anxiety, perfectionism and obsessive traits can make an individual vulnerable to managing life stressors through problematic eating (for example, restrictive eating, binge eating, purging). Chronic use of restrictive eating and binge-purging leads to neurobiological changes that increase denial, rigidity, depression, as well as anxiety, perfectionism and obsessive traits. With an increase in these symptoms, the individual is yet again more vulnerable to relying on problematic eating to manage these feelings. This results in a vicious cycle – increased vulnerability leads to maladaptive coping, which leads to neurological changes that reinforce the vulnerability leading to maladaptive coping… etc. 

The vicious cycle

For individuals with anorexia, restrictive eating has been found to reduce and manage depression. This finding suggests that eating disorders are not simply a problem with food or eating, but rather these are behaviours that have developed to manage underlying feelings. For example, research has found that individuals with bulimia experience relief from the negative feelings they have for overeating. Thus, both extremes – restrictive eating or binge eating – serve to manage difficult feelings in the short term. This strategy, however, leads to neurobiological changes that increase difficult feelings, as well as many other psychological and physical consequences.


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Eating Disorders

Eating disorders: a serious health concern for women

The vicious cycle

Types of eating disorders

Risk factors

Getting help


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